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Japanese students call for nuclear abolition in Geneva

Students from Japan chat with diplomats during a reception at the Japanese delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Aug. 27, 2018. (Kyodo)

GENEVA (Kyodo) -- Japanese student peace ambassadors on Monday called for the abolition of nuclear weapons at a government reception in Geneva.

The 20 high school student ambassadors shared stories of the victims of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 in World War II in front of about 60 foreign diplomats at the event organized by the Japanese delegation to the Conference on Disarmament.

Sawa Yamanishi, a 17-year-old from Nagasaki Prefecture, said in a speech in English that her grandmother, who survived the Nagasaki bombing but lost friends, expressed hope of not letting others endure similar suffering.

"I don't want many people to be tortured as so many were 73 years ago," said Yamanishi.

Nemi Kubota and Riko Shitakubo, both 16 from Hiroshima Prefecture, introduced the activities of the student ambassadors, who submit signatures opposing nuclear weapons to the United Nations every year in August.

High school student ambassadors, candidates for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, delivered speeches at the Conference on Disarmament between 2014 and 2016 but did not have a speaking opportunity in 2017 due to opposition from China and other countries. An organization dispatching the students decided not to request a chance this year.

Michael Moller, secretary general of the Conference on Disarmament, hailed the effort by the student ambassadors, saying the participation of young people around world in the nuclear disarmament move is important.

Diplomats from nuclear powers such as Russia and France as well as those from countries including Brazil and the Netherlands attended the reception and exchanged views with the students.

The high school student peace ambassador program was launched in 1998 after two high school students in Nagasaki, alarmed by nuclear tests by India and Pakistan earlier that year, visited the United Nations headquarters in New York to bring signatures calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The student ambassadors are expected to submit signatures collected from about 110,000 people to the secretariat of the Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday.

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